Welcome to my world..............

Monday, 8 November 2010

A weekend in Ireland.....

So.....fresh after the BBC4 programme on Twitchers in the last week, there I am standing quietly on a raised mound at Tacumshin, Co Wexford, having had stonking views on my own of the American race of Hen Harrier, and several Hen Harriers and the Glossy Ibis. Then several cars of English twitchers turn up, and the first voice I here is the irritating whine of one of those featured in the programme...bathing in the thoughts that everyone else might even be faintly interested in what he had to say, and still talking bollocks.   The hardcore were hardly looking around, just glued to pagers, and driving off at speed to far flung corners of the lake.  In contrast, several Irish birders there were fine gentlemen, unpretentious and friendly.  Several hours after daybreak, LGRE turned up...at least the whiner could tick his bird if the 'boss' said so....TIME TO LEAVE!
The real purpose of the visit was to see my folks, and my dear old Dad was in Wexford hospital.  Spent the night listening to the Whooper Swans calling, and had fabulous views of several harriers again next morning.

Distant and heavily cropped view of the harrier
Departing after lunch I headed back to Cork to catch my flight, but had an hour or so looking for the Indian House Crow on Cobh quayside in deteriorating weather.  No luck with the plastic corvid, but more than compensated for by an adult Sabine's Gull parading up and down the seafront.
What a great end to the trip!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

First pup of the year

I took a boat trip around the Farne Islands today, in an attempt to see the seal pups.  The first birth date can be as early as September, and maybe as late as end of October.  We were lucky to see the one pup which has been born 7 days ago, but there were several hundred heavily pregnant females drawn out on the rocks and shingle birthing banks. 

The number of birds was pretty poor, and I can imagine the empty cliffs being draped with thousands of breeding seabirds in the breeding season.  Sounds like a visit required in May and June is on the cards.....

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Variation in Green-brindled Crescent

The first trapping night for a couple of weeks, and spent 5 hours or so at Pilmoor woods.  70 or so moths, mainly November Moth agg. (I'll save their identification for another time...), usual Red-line Quakers, Setaceous Hebrew Characters, Dark Chestnut etc, but the highlight was both types of Green-brindled Crescent.

Green-brindled Crescent [ab. capucina] (Allophyes oxyacanthae ab. capucina) on the left, with the regular form on the right.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Welcome to the English countryside....

Razor wire and anti-intruder paint....
I don't think you are welcome.....
What on earth could have happened here to warrent such a response?  If it is to keep travellers out, a couple of heavy hay bales is normally sufficient.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Devon Carpets

A nights trapping in a clear, moonless and calm night certainly had an autumnal feel, although the temperature only dipped to +11 by 0300 in the morning.  The smaller numbers of moths caught and some of the species certainly reflected this.  However, the obvious highlight of the night were two Devon Carpets, the third and fourth Yorkshire records, following one I caught in the same site last August, and one this August at Hardcastle Crags.  They must be resident in the county, and I am sure more records will follow.
Other moths caught were Centre-barred and Pink-barred Sallows, three Brown-spot Pinions and a splendid Red Underwing.
Devon Carpet
The map below published with permission of Butterfly Conservation, shows the current distribution (excluding the Hardcastle Crag record), although Dorset, Wiltshire and some east Midland records of all species still have yet to be added to the map.
Devon Carpet with kind permission of Butterfly Conservation

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Success two days running!

The rain overnight obviously dropped a few migrants down on the east coast including Ortolans at Kilnsea, Bempton and two at Filey.  So with trepidation I set off to Bempton, and managed to miss that one by a couple of hours, and then on to Filey, where neither gave themselves up.  

So hoorah, my record goes from strength to strength, and notch up a treble of misses.

On the good side, was the fantastic weather and plenty of regular migrants, particularly at Filey.  There were at least six Whinchats, four Redstarts, two Pied Flys, five Spot Flys and odd Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Chiffs, and a Grasshopper Warbler.

As if to rub it in, there is a good picture of one of the Filey birds on Birdgides.....so that's what they look like!

Monday, 6 September 2010

It's official, they do not exist.....

A SE airstream, early September, and stubble fields on Flamborough Head.....surely absolutely ideal for an Ortolan.  But no, despite a good tramp round, I have successfully managed to avoid seeing this mythical bird yet again.
Despite having a list comfortably in excess of 400 species, many of which I have found for myself over the years, I have steadfastly managed not to see this bunting.  It is remarkable that despite having worked and lived in Dorset for 20 years, been birding all round the West country, and now living in another hotspot county in Yorkshire, it is still nothing but a dream.  I have had numerous near misses, from about to go for one at Portland to hear that it had been run over, to watching a group of birders watching one, to being waved at by a mate who I thought was just being friendly but was actually trying to attract my attention as he had found a nice male on my local patch.
I have been to Cornwall and they turn up at Portland, and then back in Dorset to hear of others in Cornwall.  So, if I manage another autumn where I avoid this mythical beast, I will be maintaining this record of failure.  I can't help feeling that when I eventually do see one, it will actually be an anti-climax, removing a source of self-derision......
Despite all that, it was a beautiful day, and did see an Osprey over the lighthouse early on, and several Redstarts, Whitethroats and a Pied Flycatcher, and not one other birder.  Bliss.  Oh, and even driving through Bempton, I did not bother going to fight my way through all the twitchers to see the Brown Flycatcher, possibly due to the fact that I have already seen one more Brown Flycatcher than bloody Ortolan in England........

Monday, 30 August 2010

A brush with a Constable....

"Identifying moths: a guide to the difficult macro and micro families" sounds a bit of a heavy course, held at Flatford Mill in Suffolk, but was actually an extremely rewarding couple of days.  The link to Constable is of course that this was where he painted the Hay Wain, with the waggon being pulled through the pond to the left of the main building, with the right hand end of Willy Lott's cottage in the left of the painting.
Flatford Mill
Willy Lott's cottage
There were nine of us on the course, which was run by Jon Clifton.  Friday night was cold and several traps were set out around the reserve, in fruit gardens, open areas and reedy scrub wetland.  Saturday morning was spent going through the catch, with the wetland area proving fairly disappointing.  There followed classroom sessions on the Hoplodrina complex, Common and Smoky Wainscot, the 'Scops', China-marks, crambids etc.. with reference to set specimens, and website images.  A review of the best available literature both for the UK and Europe was most useful.

Saturday evening, looked more promising after a rain shower, and so it proved with an increased catch next morning, which took till late morning to sort.  More classroom sessions, on the Dark Brocade and Confused, the features of the main micro families and where to find them in MBGBI, the history and use of pheromone lures, and an enlightening gen.det. session where what we all assumed to be a Tawny Marbled Minor was actually a Marbled Minor with reference to plates from a forthcoming identification book.

We ended up with 650 moths of 80 species, including the scarce Acleris shepherdana, three Hedge Rustic, 20 White-point, and a couple of Webb's Wainscot.  So, a very rewarding weekend in a marvoulous setting with good company, well tutored, and lots of facts to now try and put into practice.  I felt rather relieved that one of the other courses there at the same time was on 'Docks and Goosefoots' which makes looking at moths seem quite normal in comparison....

Thank you Jon for a good course, and I would thoroughly recommend similar courses run by the Field Study Centres.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

More moths from Brimham Rocks....

Having eventally got round to checking the photos of some of last nights moths, I find a Grey Chi as new for me, only my second Suspected, and some rather striking Flounced Chestnut.  This takes the total to 48 species identified.  The wonders of digital photography!
Grey Chi
Flounced Chestnut

A night at Brimham Rocks

A calm night, but dropping cool, and felt cooler than the +11 recorded next morning.  A few moths about, and some upland and moorland species I have recorded there before.  The highlights were five Golden-rod Brindle, and the other species of interest were 15 Northern Spinach, seven Autumnal Rustic, 17 Barred Chestnut, 12 Neglected Rustic, and 19 Heath Rustic.
Northern Spinach
Golden-rod Brindle
Autumnal Rustic

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A weekend away down south....part four

Sunday afternoon, and the inclement weather was closing in, so headed back to Dorset, arriving there in the same fog and rain as when I had left.  With little prospect of being able to trap overnight, I headed to Abbotsbury, where I new I would have a chance of getting a new moth, without setting a trap.  Sure enough, on checking the toiletblock in the carpark, there were three Channel Island Pug resting on the wall.
Channel Island Pug
The rain and wind did not let up until dawn so a quick dash ro Portland to see some close flying Gannets and a Great Skua, before retrieving the rest of the family and ambling back to Yorkshire.  Two good nights trapping and several new moths, and a satisfied family who had enjoyed their visit too, before arriving backin a rain-soaked Langthorpe.

A weekend away down south....part three

Sunday morning, having packed away at Gunwalloe, I arranged to meet my mate Pog and Dougy at Predannack Airfield.  Dougy carefully explained the intricacies of the perceived hierarchy of the various users of the airfield ....and it was agreed that model aircraft fliers make birding and mothing look normal.....and the feasibility of getting our own model with a massive prop on the front to hunt down and shred the prized specimens was considered, or the possibility of hacking into the frequency with our own control box, and stonk the plane straight into the ground at high speed....
A quick sweep of the airfield driving the main runway and taxiways eventually produced a Dunlin and five Ringed Plover, plenty of Wheatears, and the provocative shout of 'harrier!' when the rusting hulks hove into view....
A good walk around Windmill Farm NR, produced few birds, and spiders seemed the order of the day.
Dougy and Pog photographing each others legs....Dougy needed the zoom.....

A weekend away down south....part two

Saturday morning, increasing wind and heavy rain, and a forecast that suggested heading west to take advantage of improving weather. So, having hit the A35, just kept on going, with the Lizard in Cornwall the destination. I spent the night in breezy mist at Gunwalloe in the reed-beds, with the wind dropping about 0100 as the front went through, to reveal a muggy calm morning.

Again, a good nights trapping, although surprisingly very few Wainscots in the MV, and I suspect the battery did not last all night on the actinic in the churchyard.
Some interesting and scarce species with a couple of new ones for me. With 384 moths of about 50 species, the pick of the catch were five Grass Eggar, an Oblique Carpet, two Galium Carpet, several each of Square-spot Dart and White-line Dart, eight of the fabulously patterned Archer's Dart, singles of Bulrush Wainscot, Southern Wainscot, and a Webb's Wainscot which was new for me, as was one of the few micros present, an Elachista atricomella.
Elachista atricomella
Grass Eggar
Oblique Carpet
Archer's Dart
Webb's Wainscot
Gold Spot

A weekend away down south....part one

Friday afternoon, leaving a sun-bathed Yorkshire, the clouds closed in as we headed south.  Dropping Raine off in Bristol to see her folks, and then on to Cerne Abbas for Nat to stay with friends there.  As we entered Dorset the fog and drizzle set in....what a welcome.
Having dropped Nat off, the omens did not look good for trapping, but decided on Hardy's Monument, where I set up the MV with a rain shield in a sheltered area just down from the monument.  A rain shower at 2300, followed by breezy fog, but it was quickly eveident that there were quite a lot of moths about.
Following a night being woken by HM's Contabulary twice, I waited till dawn to check the trap.  On approaching the trap, there were sporadic buzzes of activity as the moths started flying around, before settling again.  Opening the trap up it was quickly obvious that four species were predominent: the bully-boy Large Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character, and lesser numbers of the more sedate Vine's Rustic and Flame Shoulder.
I ended up counting around 930 moths of just 34 species, with those of interest were Pine Hawkmoth, eight Dark Swordgrass, and 21 White-point. 
With all the thrashing about, there was a brown dusty layer in the trap, and all the micros and hoverflies which were seen during the night were disturbed, with just five micros and one hoverfly left in the trap. 

I was amazed to hear a Nightjar churring in the gloom at 0500 in the morning, not the first I heard there, but just rather unexpected to hear so late in the breeding season.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Painful memories.....

Having recently visited Wexford in Ireland to see the folks, I could not help but notice this warning sign on the outskirts of a neighbouring village, Duncormick. 

It brought back painful painful memories of my recent spell recovering from hospital.......ouch!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Could it get worse...?

Friday night, which would have been the preferred trapping night, was wet, so had to defer to the Saturday night, which was forecast to be cloudy and dry.  First of all while loading up, I dropped a can of drink that punctured, spraying all over my trousers and the car.  Kilburn woods was favourite for the night, so duly set off and set up 3 traps spread over a couple of 10 km squares.  All parked up, trying to get a few ZZZ's, and awoken at 0215 by rain on the windscreen.  Panic!  With two unprotected bulbs including a very hot 160MVB, it was a rush to list and identify as many moths as possible, while trying to keep the rain off.  Fortunately the heavy shower passed over, but I still had to get all the kit away, while recording as much as possible.  The micros were a bit neglected other than a handful of specimens to photo.

Having got to the second location, I find the actinic light dead...had I really forgotten to top up the battery...?  It could only have just happened as there were still plenty of moths in the trap.  The rain started again, and on emptying the trap, I spot a large moth on the trap wall.  Half identifying it in my mind, I consider going back to the car to get a larger pot, but decided to squeeze it into one of the regular tubes.  While trying to get the lid on, I dropped it, and the beastie escaped!  I checked Townsend and Waring, and zeroed in a Tissue...a new one for me.

Eventually got to bed at 0430, only to be up again at 0800 taking #1 daughter on an endurance ride.  We got to the venue, avoiding Sutton Bank, got the horse vetted, all tacked up and of she went.  Before meeting up at checkpoint 2, had a couple of calls saying she was lost...studied geography at school yet hopeless with maps....  Then the dreaded call that she was now completely lost and the horse was not moving at all well.  With the powers of deduction, I worked out where she was, helped by the fact that the position she described in Boltby Forest was somewhere I had set a couple of moth-traps in the past.  So, picked up the trailer, rescued horse and daughter, and abandoned the rest of the ride.  Retired hurt, we set off home, then after a short way heard a commotion in the trailer.  A bolt on the recently serviced partition had come undone, allowing the partition to drop down and frightened the horse, causing him to kick out and cut his leg.  We eventually reassembled the trailer, got things back together, the horse settled, and got back to the yard with no further incident.

On checking the feasibility of Tissue with Charlie, he advised only a couple of older records within the rough area, and without a photo or specimen not really an acceptable record.

So the story of the day is no rosette for not completing the course, and a probable goodie confined to the wastebin.  Such is life....

Thursday, 5 August 2010

And here is one I caught earlier.......

Having had a very successful night out at Silton Forest, VC62,  on 31st July, with just short of 800 moths of about 85 species, I just happened to find a specimen pot in my jacket pocket several days later.  After some time trying to put a name to the moth inside, it suddenly came to me that it was a Suspected.  I ran it past Charlie who agreed.  Another new one for me in Yorkshire.

Suspected, Silton, 31 July 2010

Monday, 26 July 2010

First night out for a while....

Larch Pug

Now feeling somewhat better and after my first weeks work for a while, I was desperate to get out and do some mothing.  I chose a site on the North Yorkshire Moors that straddled two 10km squares, a coniferous plantation surrounded by moorland.  As it turned out, reasonable numbers of moths, but only 29 species, however, three of them were new for me.

Spruce Bud Moth

Larch Tortrix

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A chance to catch up

Having spent the last two and a half weeks recovering from an Op and not been able to get about at all, I have taken the opportunity to sort out all my digital photos, and put them into a sensible file system.  This has been very theraputic, ambling through many memories, and the satisfaction of imposing order on a chaotic mass.
Although all the moth files are now labelled properly, there is now plenty of scope to identify some of the many record shots, and add records as I go along.  Just a cursory glance at an old Dorset file gave me a new species, one that I just had not recognised before.  Now that they are all sorted, I can see some winter evenings work going through the individual photos, while dreaming of catching some of the summer hauls....

Monday, 5 July 2010

Burnished Brass split?

There has been a lot of speculation recently about the status of Burnished Brass moths in Britain, following a presentation by Colin Plant at last Novembers Annual Exhibition of Entomological and Natural History Society. He provided compelling evidence that the Burnished Brass should be split into two species, something the Europeans have been doing for some time. He suggested they could be identified on external features, the difference being the 'bridge' between the two gold bands on the forewing. If the bands were joined it was the new species Cryptic Burnished Brass Diachrysia stenochrysitis (sic), and if not linked was the 'old' species of Burnished Brass Diachrysia chrysitis. Both forms are illustrated in Waring and Townsend.

I add the following information from Charlie Fletcher:

"It is almost 50 years since the suggestion was first made that an additional species may be present within the taxon Diachrysia chrysitis.  More recently is has been shown that the moth that had been referred to in Europe as ssp tutti is in fact a sibling species of D. chrysitis, the western representative of the eastern species D. stenochyrsis. The English name Cryptic Brass has been suggested for this species. Following a long investigation, the two species have been definitively distinguished by their morphology, differences in structure of the wings scales, electrophoresis and different male pheromones.  So far as it is known, the two species have a similar distribution in Europe, including Britain"

"In the field, separation is based on whether the brown, non-metallic median fascia is complete (chrysitis) or interrupted by a band of green scales, these thus forming an "H" shape (stenochrysis). Examples at each end of the spectrum may be safely named using this character, however intermediate examples exist where the median fascia is traversed by a very narrow line of green scales.  These will probably require examination of genitalic characters to be certain of the species. However a character that appears to be fairly constant is that in
stenochrysis, the upper end of the lower section of the brown median fascia is distinctly rounded. In specimens of chrysitis where the median fascia is interrupted by a narrow line of green scales, this lower section tends to be square-ended."

Of course, this prompted me to look back through any photos I had, and of three that I found, there were examples of both species and an intermediate.

Windmill Farm, Cornwall, 12 Sep 2005

Lyons Gate, Dorset, 12 Jul 2004

Lyons Gate, Dorset, 19 Jun 2004

Monday, 28 June 2010

Terns in Ireland

Having spent a couple of days visiting parents in south-east Ireland, I took the opportunity to visit Tacumshin and Lady's Island Lake.  There were 500 + Black-tailed Godwit most evident, very few retaining any summer plumage, so are presumably early returning non-breeders.  There was a magnificant jet black summer plumaged Spotted Redshank which was particularly pleasing.   At Lady's Island there were literally thousands of terns, and by positioning on the beach was able to catch the terns as they flew across the dunes towards the sea.  Hardly any returned in the first 3 hours of the day, so they were presumably off catching fish.  The terns were mainly Common with a small number of Arctic Terns, while the Sandwich Terns seemed to be feeding elsewhere and coming in from the north, which is from inland, but most were carrying small fish back to the lake.

I attach a few photos showing the Common Terns, which have dark-tipped red bills, a moult line in the primaries showing a dark wedge in the unmoulted primaries.  The Arctic Terns have a red bill, paler wings with no wedge, narrow dark tips to underside of flight feathers, and longer tail feathers.  The Sandwich Terns are larger, paler, and have dark bill with a yellow tip.

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

There were a few Little Terns too, allowing me to brush up on tern identification, but no luck with the summering Forster's Tern nearby......